The fifth edition of the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival, which will be held next week, promises to be festival director Sridhar Rangayan’s biggest offering yet. Over 154 films from 31 countries, including Uganda, Cameroon, Turkey and India, will be shown at two south Mumbai venues from 21-25 May, besides panel discussions and dance performances.

Queer film screenings have been held in the country since the December Supreme Court verdict which reinstated Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes homosexual intercourse. Bangalore’s Queer Film Festival took place in March; the Chennai International Queer Film Festival has put out its call for submission and is tentatively slated for the end of July.

“This is a mainstream cultural event that showcases Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) films," says Rangayan, adding that he has consulted legal experts to ascertain that the festival does not break the law. Furthermore, the festival will showcase films that Rangayan says “have been selected keeping in mind the taste and sensibilities of a general audience that is above the age of 18 years". The theme of this year’s festival is “Dare to dream".

The festival will open with Michael Mayer’s Out In the Dark, which tells the story of two gay lovers on opposite sides of the Israel and Palestine border and brings up a cross-section of issues surrounding sexuality, such as nationhood, religion and ethnicity. Uganda, which passed an anti-homosexuality law that came into effect in January, too has two short film submissions. City Of the Damned, a 16-minute short documentary, is about the Youth on Rock Foundation, which works with the queer community in the slums of Kampala. Priest, a 7-minute experimental short, depicts the struggle of conscience of an African priest. Valentine Road, an American documentary based on the murder of an eighth-grader by his classmate, talks about the tragic consequence of homophobia in schools. GBF, a romantic comedy, is the story of three women and one man who wish to befriend a stylist because of his looks. Kashish will also showcase 28 Indian films, including National Award winning director Ravi Jadhav’s short Marathi film Mitraa, which is based on playwright Vijay Tendulkar’s Mitrachi Goshta. The film, set in the time of the struggle for Independence, is based on the life of a lesbian. Ipshita Maitra’s Between Dreams And Waking compares the lives of lesbians in two eras, including the contemporary times. Some films even incorporate last December’s Supreme Court verdict, such as the clay-mation FU 377, while Ritesh Sharma’s Rainbows Are Real tells the story of three transgenders in Kolkata.

Sridhar Rangayan

The festival, which started in 2010 with 110 films, will be held for the first time at the Liberty cinema, south Mumbai’s art-deco single-screen theatre that has hosted a variety of cultural happenings in the recent past, including a rock concert and stand-up comedy acts. Rangayan, a queer film-maker and gay rights activist, is hopeful that the new venue will be a draw for the suburban crowd, which till last year had the option of viewing the films at a suburban movie theatre. The second venue, Alliance Française de Bombay, remains the same.

The Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival will be held from 21-25 May. General delegate registration costs 500, and the schedule is expected to be available on this weekend.